There’s nothing all that much wrong with Gregory Hoblit’s Fracture—except for the fact that it feels like a TV drama that found its way to the big screen by virtue of stars Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. It’s an agreeably convoluted two hours at the movies, but neither a very clever one, nor a terribly exciting one. While it contains not one, but two supposedly mystifying plot twists (neither of which are all that mystifying, and both of which the film blows far too soon), it’s essentially a cat-and-mouse game between Ted Crawford (Hopkins) and Assistant District Attorney Willy Beachum (Gosling). But to judge by audience turnout and the reaction to the film, this is precisely what the viewers wanted it to be, so no one can be faulted on providing it. Well, they can’t be seriously faulted for it in any event.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you know the plot. Wealthy Ted Crawford, a man who makes a living finding structural flaws and who spends his spare time creating elaborate sculptures involving steel balls gliding along complicated tracks, has discovered that wife Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz, Junebug) is unfaithful. The lady has taken to trysting with policeman Rob Nunally (TV actor Billy Burke, who is not related to legendary Good Witch Glinda, Billie Burke). In response, Crawford shoots his erring spouse in the head. He then confesses to the crime, and hands over the would-be murder weapon (the wife isn’t dead, but in a coma) to arresting officer Nunally.
It seems to be an airtight case, and it’s scheduled to be the last for Willy Beacham, who is about to join a prestigious law firm. Crawford, however, makes it clear to Willy that he’s playing a game with him, and quickly backs this up when the weapon proves not to be the gun that was fired. Further, Crawford, defending himself, gets the confession thrown out by revealing the affair between his wife and Nunally, claiming he made the confession under duress. From there, it’s a case of Willy having to outsmart his opponent, find the gun and win the case, or see his fancy new job go up in smoke. It’s a pretty neat story, even if the whereabouts of the gun that was fired is reasonably obvious (and you wonder why no one thinks of it), though this predictable point pales in comparison to the overly telegraphed final “twist.”
Ultimately, it’s really all about pitting the two stars against each other—à la Hopkins and Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs (1991). And though this seems to satisfy a lot of people, it’s ultimately a little too “à la” Lambs for me. Sure, Hopkins affects a stage Irish accent, but he’s really replaying Hannibal Lecter. Once again, his character is sardonic genius personified. He glories in lording his intellect over Willy the hotshot assistant D.A. It’s the sort of thing Hopkins could do in his sleep—and occasionally has from the on-screen evidence. Making the connection even more unshakable, Gosling (who does a credible Matthew McConaughey vocal impression) is playing a self-made man from the Okies. How much closer can you get to Foster’s West Virginia-born Clarice Starling without giving Willy her patented cheap shoes? Not much.
None of this keeps their interactions from being enjoyable—though it’s actually more fun watching Hopkins work his wiles on the judge (Fiona Shaw, The Black Dahlia)—it just makes them somewhere on the far side of original. A more damaging problem stems from the fact that the scenes involving Gosling without Hopkins—especially the ones detailing Gosling’s affair with his soon-to-be new boss Nikki Gardner (Rosamund Pike, The Libertine)—aren’t especially interesting. The whole movie is slickly professional, occasionally a little too slick (Crawford’s face reflected in a pool of his wife’s blood). It all feels like watching one of Crawford’s kinetic sculptures: You know the little silver ball in these clever creations has to navigate a torturous path to get to its final destination, but you also know that the destination is inevitable. The question is ultimately whether or not such a journey is worth it to you. Rated R for language and some violent content.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke